Getting More Than You Paid For
Never underestimate the value of education. At any level. This is a time of unparalleled scrutiny on the value of higher education. Is it worth the money some schools charge?
Well, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, 80 occupations that typically required less than a bachelor’s degree saw median annual wages of over $50,000 in May 2010.
Not only that, but the BLS also reports that with many of the high-wage associate’s degree level jobs, previous work experience or on-the-job training in a related occupation is not required. All are worth pursuing.
Some Popular Associate’s Programs are:
• Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities
• Health professions and related programs
• Business, management, marketing and personal culinary services
• Engineering and engineering technologies
• Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective services
• Computer and information sciences and support services
What follows are the best (in terms of a return on your investment) online associate degrees, according to payscale.com, the BLS, and Forbes magazine.
12. Mechanical Engineering Specialist
If you’re into tools and all things mechanical, this field just might be for you. And you won’t need much more than an associate’s degree to get in the door. Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, such as tools, engines, and machines. Under certain circumstances they might even make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.
Median salary: $51,980 a year
Job Growth Prospects: 5% over the next 10 years
11. Electrical Engineering Technician (EET)
Although it is an occupation in a slow growing field, BLS predicts few changes in employer needs over the next 10 years. That’s a good thing. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians help engineers design and develop computers, communications equipment, medical monitoring devices, navigational equipment, and other electrical and electronic equipment. Often times, you’ll work in product evaluation and testing, using measuring and diagnostic devices to adjust, test, and repair equipment. It’s interesting work. And generally an associate’s degree will suffice.
Median Pay: $57,850 a year; $27.81 an hour
Job outlook through 2022: little or no change (according to the BLS)
10. Computer Programming: Associates of Applied Science
Note that generally a bachelor’s degree is required by companies, but according to PayScale and others (Monster), an associate’s degree is acceptable in some cases. Just be good at what you do because the competition is tough. Computer Programmers are responsible for creating code that essentially tells a computer how to operate. They write, test, and maintain these coded instructions, also referred to as programs. The work of programmers has been expanded in today’s world, due to the innovative and advanced technologies that now exist. Most expert programmers are well versed in several computer languages because they tend to be similar, making them relatively easy to learn.
Median pay: A web developer can make about $42,000 annually; a programming analyst, $55,000. These are median, average scores.
Job growth outlook through 2022: 8%
9. Networks and Telecommunications Technicians
A telecommunications tech installs and maintains (and repairs) telecommunication lines, such as telephones, voice mail systems, fax lines, security, Internet, and wireless systems. Network technicians troubleshoot hardware, software and network problems; configure and install operating systems; and train users.
Average starting salary: Income ranges from $31K near the bottom to $76K at the top; a network tech salary ranges from about $30,000 to $63,000.
Job growth outlook: 4% through 2022 (considered slow growth)
8. Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Since the work is very precise…and in some cases (many, actually) can save lives, these techs are well compensated. To wit: diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, including vascular technologists, operate special imaging equipment to create images or conduct tests. These images and test results help physicians diagnose medical conditions. Some technologists even assist physicians during surgical procedures.
Average median salary: $60,350
Job Growth Outlook: 39% over the next 10 years (much faster than average)
7. Computer Science/Web Developers
The upside of this profession is enormous. Pure and simple: Web developers design and create websites, end of story. They are responsible for the look of the site. They are also responsible for the site’s technical aspects, such as performance and capacity, which are measures of a website’s speed and how much traffic the site can handle. They also may create content for the site. When you’re hot, you’re hot and a good web developer can make a fortune…all on an associate’s degree.
Average median salary: $63,160; salary range: $33,000 to more than $110,000
Job Growth Potential: 20% over 10 years
6. Occupational Health and Safety
You might need a bachelor’s degree to get a job in this field. But sometimes, associate’s degree holders can start as occupational health and safety specialists. Their job is to analyze many types of work environments and work procedures. Specialists inspect workplaces for adherence to regulations on safety, health, and the environment. They also design programs to prevent disease or injury to workers and damage to the environment. Interesting work. Well paid.
Average median salary: $66,790
Job Growth Potential: 7% over 10 years
5. Dental Hygiene
That dental hygienist who cleans your teeth twice a year probably has an associate’s degree. He or she also is qualified to clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventative dental care. One other thing they can do: educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.
Median salary: $70,210 a year
Job Growth Outlook: 33% over next 10 years
4. Electronic Communications Engineering
This is one of those professions where typically, you need a bachelor’s degree to enter. But it’s not out of the question to see associate degree holders start their careers as electrical engineers designing, developing and testing the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—which is why they so well compensated.
Median salary: $89,630
Job Growth Potential: 4%
3. Post-Secondary Economics Teacher
You start with an associate’s degree and work your way up the chain. Postsecondary Economics teachers can instruct students in a wide variety of academic and vocational subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books. Particularly if they have dreams of earning a doctorate.
Average starting salary: $68,970
Job Outlook: 19% to 2022.
2. Construction Management
You’ll find that large construction firms increasingly hire candidates with bachelor’s degree, but that is not set in stone. Some managers may qualify with an associate’s degree or even a high school diploma and by working many years in a construction trade, although most will qualify primarily as self-employed general contractors. By definition, construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from development to completion.
Median salary: $84,410, but a top earner can earn more than $140,000, according to the BLS
Job Growth Prospect: 16% by 2022
1. Management, Information Systems
You likely won’t start as a systems manager (with an associate’s degree) unless you have considerable experience already. Having an associate’s degree won’t disqualify you; just make things more difficult. Employers tend to look for those with higher education background, but don’t let that stop you. As you likely already know, computer and information systems managers, often called information technology (IT) managers plan, coordinate, and direct computer-related activities in an organization. They help determine the information technology goals and are responsible for implementing computer systems to meet those goals.
Median salary: $120,950
Job Growth Potential: 15% over the next 10 years
The Bureau of Labor Statistics